Former detainee tells of ‘horrific torture’ in Houthi jails

Yemeni activist Gamal Al-Maamri, center, addresses a press conference in Riyadh. (AN photo)
Updated 17 May 2018

Former detainee tells of ‘horrific torture’ in Houthi jails

  • Al-Maamri said that many prisoners had died because of excessive torture
  • Al-Maamri had earlier arrived in Riyadh after he was released from three years of detention, where he was tortured to paralysis by the rebels

RIYADH: A former detainee on Wednesday told of torture and murder in the jails and camps of the Iranian-backed Houthi militias and called for international human rights organizations to inspect the conditions of thousands of detainees across Yemen. 

Addressing a crowded press conference at the Yemen Embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday, Gamal Al-Maamri, a Yemeni activist released by Houthi militias in a prisoner swap, shared details of his ordeal after he was abducted in March 2015 and taken to the National Security Bureau prison in Sanaa. 

A video showing Al-Maamri’s torture, which sparked anger and condemnation of Houthi brutality, was also shown during the press conference.

Al-Maamri said that many prisoners had died because of excessive torture.

The press conference, which highlighted the torture of Al-Maamri and the killing of prisoners including westerners, and disclosures of the conditions of foreign abductees, was organized by Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights in cooperation with the Ministry of Information in Riyadh. Yemeni Minister of Human Rights Mohammed Askar, Minister of Information Muammar Al-Iryani, and Deputy Minister of Human Rights Maged Ali Fadail also attended.

Al-Maamri had earlier arrived in Riyadh after he was released from three years of detention, where he was tortured to paralysis by the rebels. They concocted charges against him, accusing him of being an informer for Iranian targets, working against Houthi interest and spying for the Yemeni government.

Al-Maamri, a tribal chieftain, said that he was captured by the Houthis on March 13, 2015, from his hotel room in Saana.  “Then I was taken to a house and upon arriving dragged mercilessly on the stairs of the house and assaulted with all objects including rifle butts until I lost consciousness,” he said. “As I gained consciousness, they started beating me again and kept torturing me for eight straight days.”

Al-Maamri, who is receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia, said: “I was subjected to various types of systematic torture, until I was totally paralyzed with even my private parts badly damaged.” 

“The Houthis’ torture damaged the nerves of my left upper and lower limbs, which paralyzed the left side of my body,” he said. 

“On the top of that, they kept torturing all detainees including me,” said Al-Maamri. “I received successive blows to the back of my head and spine, and because of the beating, it led to coma and paralysis of my limbs.”

“I was having regular period of coma for about five months on a daily basis, lasting for five to six hours, as a result of torture.” A large number of prisoners had undergone systematic torture and death at the hands of the Houthi militants, he said. 

Al-Maamri called on the international community, especially the UN, the UN Security Council and human rights organizations, to inspect the status of thousands of detainees held in the rebels’ jails. He said that “one of the methods of torture is that the deprive you of sleep.”

The Yemeni government has reaffirmed that the case of those abducted by Houthi militias tops its list of priorities for consultations with UN agencies.

Saudi Red Sea project to offer visa on arrival for tourists

Updated 49 min 41 sec ago

Saudi Red Sea project to offer visa on arrival for tourists

  • Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project has been registered as a standalone company
  • The venture will be will be headed by John Pagano, former director of London’s Canary Wharf business zone

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project will offer visas on arrival for overseas visitors following the creation of a company to deliver the ambitious project.
The project marked a milestone on Sunday with its incorporation as a standalone closed joint-stock company, The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), wholly owned by the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The company, which in October announced Virgin Group founder Richard Branson as one of its board members, on Sunday said it had recruited John Pagano, the former managing director of development for the UK’s Canary Wharf Group as its chief executive.
The newly-incorporated company will now move forward with the creation of its Special Economic Zone, with its own regulatory framework, it said in a statement.
The framework will be separate from the base economy, with a special emphasis on environmental sustainability, and will offering visa on entry, relaxed social norms, and improved business regulations.
“The destination will provide a unique sense of place for visitors and offer nature lovers, adventurers, cultural explorers and guests looking to escape and rejuvenate, a wide range of exclusive experiences, combining luxury, tranquillity, adventure and beautiful landscapes,” said Pagano.
The first phase of The Red Sea Project — which will occupy an area greater than the size of Belgium between the cities of Al-Wajh and Umluj — will include hotels and residential units, along with a new costal town, an airport and a marina, and is due for completion by late 2022, the company said.
Authorities hope the project will create as many as 35,000 jobs and contribute SR15 billion ($3.99 billion) to the local economy.
The project, unveiled last July by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is one of the key developments in Saudi Arabia’s strategy to develop its tourism sector, alongside Qiddiya, an entertainment resort near Riyadh that will be two-and-a-half times the size of Disney World.
The country’s Vision 2030 economic development plan is targeting the creation of 1.2 million new jobs in the Saudi tourism sector by 2030.